Football adds 34 on National Signing Day

A North Alabama football player leans on his helmet during the 2016 season. North Alabama football added 34 new signees on National Signing Day 2017 including 30 high school recruits, and four college transfers.

by Managing Editor Mike Ezekiel

The North Alabama football team added 34 signees on National Signing Day Feb. 1, a number Lions head coach Chris Willis said was higher than expected.

The Class of 2017 includes 30 freshmen from high school and four transfer players. UNA also had two mid-year transfers to officially add 36 new names to the roster.

“We’re very pleased,” Willis said. “It’s very strong across the board. Our goal was to get around 28 signees, and we’re not too far over that. I think we have some very strong candidates moving forward that can play as early as their freshman season. It’s been a very good signing class.”

Nine of the UNA signees are from local high schools, including three players from Brooks in running back Deondre Hampton and special teams players Joe Gurley and Payne Correll. The Lions also landed a pair of Muscle Shoals and a pair of Florence players, as well as offensive lineman Jakobi Lewis from Sheffield.

Willis said despite the idea of not competing for a Division I national championship until 2022 possibly stirring away recruits, the Lions found success with many of the prospects the coaches brought to campus.

“We actually beat some established FSC-Division I teams that are already playing for championships,” Willis said. “I think its just the fact of getting them here and them seeing what Florence has to offer to live, and we get to play for another Division II national championship. Everyone seemed fired up about being labeled a Division I player.”

Of the 34, UNA added 20 offensive prospects, including eight wide receivers and eight offensive linemen. The Lions also brought in three running backs that should immediately add competition, one of which is former Tulane commit C.J. Sturdivant from Hoover High School. Hampton and Gardendale product Demetrius King are the other running backs.

“Those three guys are three we expect to come in and help,” said UNA offensive coordinator Steadman Campbell. “We have two seniors coming back and Terrance Humphrey coming off the ACL injury. (Running back) was one of those areas we wanted to create depth and create a little competition, and I think we’ve done that.”

UNA added only one quarterback this season in Kendall Davis from Chilton County High School. Davis is listed as a QB and an athlete on the roster.

On the defensive side, new defensive coordinator Brett Borden will have 11 new players to work with, including three key college transfers.

“We signed the three transfers which gives us immediate impact at our positions of need, two defensive ends and a safety,” Borden said. “We signed several high school guys that we think can play right away for us and also a solid foundation for as we move forward. All in all, I think we really helped ourselves today.”

UNA’s coaching staff was short-handed during the recruiting season. The departure of wide receiver’s coach Ryan Aplin leaves an unfilled position, and the Lions hired Borden to fill the DC position Jan. 12, which fell in the middle of recruiting season.

“This is all a credit to my coaches for working the phone lines, for driving, home visiting and putting in the time and a lot of work to get these kids,” Willis said. “All the coaches have worked hard. I know they’re ready for a break, so I’m going to try and let them have a day or two off.”

With National Signing Day drawing to a close, the Lions will now look ahead to bringing in transfers. Willis said he expects to bring in four to six more players.

To see the full signing class, click here.